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Analysis: Why Judge Roy Moore Lost

Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court judge who lost election for a seat in the United States Senate, fought for conservative values over the course of his career in politics. This made him a folk hero in Alabama, a state where support for gay marriage and abortion is low when compared to the national averages. However, in the process, Moore made himself a magnet for controversy due to his offhand comments on race and sexual orientation.

Judge Roy Moore

Due to the state of Alabama’s reverence for social conservatism, Moore’s positions aren’t what disqualified him. He was rejected due to accusations of sexual misconduct, actions that allegedly occurred when Moore was in his early thirties and the women were in their teens. Eight women came forward against Moore, and one of the accusers claimed that he made her “touch over his underwear” when she was only 14, according to Business Insider.

The victor in Alabama, Doug Jones, is an unlikely senator for the staunchly Republican Deep South state. He supports expansive abortion access (even past the 20-week mark), and he had prominent liberals like Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Cory Booker as campaign surrogates. While Jones was seen as a long-shot prior to the allegations against Moore, he was able to pull through due to a ground game that soundly beat that of the GOP.

If this makes sense, Moore didn’t lose the race because of the accusations of sexual misconduct: He lost because Doug Jones had a much, much better campaign, and he was able to pound the allegations into the general consciousness.

From an analytical sense, Moore lost for three reasons. One, he was unable to swing write-in voters to support him over other Republicans. 1.7% of the votes cast were write-ins, which is a substantial figure considering that Moore lost to Jones by only 1.5%. It is no secret that the heavy majority of these write-ins were cast by Republicans who were repulsed by the accusations against Moore.

Two, Moore underperformed significantly in Mobile and Madison counties.

In Mobile County, Moore took only 42.3% of the vote. Compare this to the 2016 senatorial election, where Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) was able to take 57.8% of the votes there. In Madison County, which has Huntsville as its seat, Moore took a measly 40.1% compared to Shelby’s 60.9%. Both of these statistics are indicators that Moore had much less success with middle-class, semi-urban GOP voters than the prior GOP nominees in Alabama.

Three, Jones was able to crush Moore in demographic indexes. Exit polls published by The Washington Post showed that 28% of the Alabama voters were African-American, which exceeds their share of the state’s population, 26%. On the other hand, Moore failed to enthuse white voters (especially women) enough to neutralize this increased minority turnout, a dilemma that probably extended from the sexual misconduct allegations.

All in all, Roy Moore singlehandedly laid waste to the GOP’s straight shot to victory in what is the 7th reddest state in America (based on voter registration statistics). He refused to drop out of the race upon the announcement of the first batch of sexual misconduct claims, despite calls by GOP leadership, and by that time, it was too late for anyone to wage a write-in campaign of substance.

For that, Moore is at fault. Karl Rove, a former advisor for President George W. Bush, explained it perfectly:

Since 2002, Republicans have won 42 out of 50 contested statewide races, by an average of 16 percentage points—and, in contests since 2010, by 20 percentage points. That doesn’t include the 14 races in which Democrats didn’t field a candidate. It takes a very special Republican to lose in Alabama.

Admittedly, I endorsed Moore in September ahead of the runoff primary (and before the accusations were made public). Even after they came about, I thought that the judge would be able to overcome the allegations, secure the Huntsville and Mobile voters, and win the Senate seat. 

I was incorrect in my analysis of the race, and for that, I apologize. Moore lost fair and square (by a convincing margin), and the fact that he will not concede doesn't help his case.

However, despite the shock and awe that has followed this Democratic win, a key takeaway must be established: this in no way reflects on the GOP as a whole. The Alabama special election was a race where individuals, not ideas, mattered, and as a result, anyone who claims that the results are indicative of national trends are misguided at best.

Regardless, with a 51-49 split in the Senate, we Republicans desperately need to pick up the slack in 2018 and beyond if we want to govern effectively.